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Fifty Years at The Pilots Grill

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THE Honorable J. Hollis Wyman packed blueberries and sardines Down East and was able to perpetuate himself in the Maine state Senate. On the wall behind him at his desk was a framed motto that said: ``Nothing Beats Blind Luck.'' Salesmen and buyers who came to call enjoyed a laugh from this, for they had soon recognized that Hollie had advanced acumen, was shrewd, and none of his success depended on chance. It's hard to believe that 50 years have passed since I came to know another gentleman who ascribed his prosperity to ``luck,'' Paul Zoidis of Bangor. Paul came from Albania at 17 with a desire to become a restaurateur, and after learning his English and laying aside enough money, he opened a restaurant which he called The Pilots Grill.

Was it blind luck that caused him to select a vacant lot quite a distance from Bangor's downtown shopping district? Or did he foresee how things would trend and was far ahead of his time? Near the restaurant he opened was the ``flying field,'' to become Bangor's International Airport, which today can handle anything that flies, and does.

This was in 1940, a little more than 50 years ago, and airplanes were not yet wholly accepted, and the idea of shopping malls with parking space was yet to be decried by in-town merchants. Paul chose the name for his proximity to the flying field and because pilots were derring-do and it was possible to come in and have lunch and see one eating. Also, World War II was about to erupt for us, and Bangor would have the nighest runway to Europe. Paul looked ahead.

Fifty years later, some folks will tell you Pilots Grill is the best restaurant in Maine, but I repeat that not as an unpaid testimonial but as introduction to my yarn of the day. Paul's place was never a simple eatery, fast and junk food. It had class, with linen on the tables and cloth napkins. His first menu had 14 entrees, plus 10 seafood dishes.

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